Dr. Aleksandra Lipka awarded a Fulbright scholarship

Dr. Lipka
Dr. Aleksandra Lipka from the UWM School of Medicine has been granted a prestigious Fulbright Program scholarship. At Colorado State University, she will examine the role of the glucose transporter SLC2A8 (GLUT8) in placenta functioning.

Dr. Aleksandra Lipka is an assistant professor at the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at the UWM Faculty of Medicine. In cooperation with Dr hab. Marta Majewska, Prof. Mariusz Majewski (Department of Human Physiology and Pathophysiology, Faculty of Medicine), Dr. Marek Gowkielewicz, Prof. Marcin Jóźwik (Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, Faculty of Medicine) and Łukasz Paukszto and Dr. Jan Jastrzębski (Department of Plant Physiology, Genetics and Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology), she is working on intrauterine growth restriction, i.e. IUGR. This is a quite frequent condition, statistically affecting about 8% of pregnant women. As a result, the foetus is too small for the gestational age and children born from an IUGR pregnancy are more likely to develop a number of diseases, including diabetes, obesity and cognitive retardation. What is her research about?

“We already know that intrauterine growth restriction can be a consequence of diseases suffered by the pregnant woman, such as rubella or toxoplasmosis, or of genetic defects of the foetus. However, it turns out that as many as 60% of cases of IUGR are caused by other factors. What are those factors? We do not know, and this is what the researchers are studying worldwide. We assume that it is caused by the abnormal placenta functioning. The basic source of energy for the developing foetus is glucose supplied from the mother’s body through the placenta. This is possible due to the proper operation of glucose transporters. There are numerous types of them, each specialising in a different kind of transport: intracellular, intercellular, insulin-dependent or preferential. I will examine the effect of lowering the level of one of the glucose transporters – GLUT8 on placenta functioning. I suspect that irregularities in GLUT8 functioning can lead to a reduction of the foetus growth rate, i.e. to IUGR”, Dr. Lipka explains this complex issue.

“I am glad that our colleague from the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics has been awarded this scholarship, as this will certainly be the start of her successful academic career”, Prof. Marcin Jóźwik, the head of the department enthusiastically assures. “This is a highly prestigious scholarship, awarded to the best scientists. Although Dr. Lipka is just 33 years old, her impact factor is already 40. She is a very mature researcher. Such a stay will make it possible for her to carry out research in the best laboratories, but also to cooperate with the best specialists. It will also help her to look more generally at science and the issues she is studying. She will learn new research practices and improve her scientific methods. We need to be open to international cooperation. This requires very good knowledge of English, and she will acquire it, in addition to meeting new people and new culture”, Prof. Jóźwik adds.

The reason why Dr. Aleksandra Lipka has chosen Colorado State University is the fact that this is the academic centre where Prof. Anthony with his (very strong) team is also carrying out similar research, having at their disposal a very well-equipped laboratory. A six-month-long Fulbright scholarship, for which she received PLN 120,000, will start in April 2021, but she will conduct her research there from October 2020. Why?

It is because she applied almost at the same time for the scholarship under the Prof. Bekker National Agency for Academic Exchange Program, which she was awarded. It amounts to PLN 112,000, and her stay in Colorado under this program will also last six months, so she will spend a year in the USA. Scholarships will cover Dr. Lipka’s living costs in the USA, while the research she will conduct will be financed by grants managed by Prof. Anthony and with the Colorado State University funds.

Lech Kryszałowicz

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